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Thomas Wynne: Consultation with those we elect is critical

Saturday 20 January 2024 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Thomas Wynne: Consultation  with those we elect is critical
Columnist Thomas Tarurongo Wynne. Photo: CI NEWS/16040843

I watched with great interest as our genealogical, vaka and blood links to the Māori peoples in Aotearoa meet and consult at Tūrangawaewae marae, at the request of the Māori King Tuheitia, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.

It is clear that for a people to succeed, for us to move forward together and to ‘uri’uri korero and manako the challenges and opportunities before us, consultation with those we elect, ask to lead or who hold mana, with those who put them there to serve their interests, is critical.

As Aotearoa moves into a time of great uncertainty for Māori, and for those of us from the Moana and those directly related to Māori as the Cook Islands are, it’s natural to have a vested interest in what is good for Māori. Their struggles are our struggles, and their victories are our victories.

In the shade that they have built, we have rested our vaka also, and as Tuakana to our teina in Aotearoa, it is a relationship I believe we have yet to develop to its full potential.

But for that to develop, consultation will be a wind to the sails or kie of that vaka.

Consultation will happen next week in Aotearoa with Te Tango Tutara O Te Ture Ministry of Justice, including Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa and Secretary Tamatoa Jonassen, who will lead public meetings in New Zealand, followed by Australia, and then the Cook Islands, to receive public input into reforming Cook Islands land law.

We are now more than 100,000 who identify as Cook Islanders living offshore.

The resident population in the Cook Islands in 2021 accounted for 11,603 persons or 77 per cent of the population, a slight decrease from 78 per cent in 2016 and 81 per cent in 2011.

Minister Mokoroa acknowledged that land is a very sensitive issue and that it has to be handled properly.

It has to be approached carefully, consulted widely and discussed at length with all Cook Islanders.

He said these public meetings on land reform needs to be done to minimise rifts, emotional trauma and angst among the families, and to ensure that processes and systems within government can manage the diaspora.

But ultimately, “our land legislation needs to be updated,” Mokoroa said.

Nothing has split our peoples apart as much has the wrestling of land and shares of land with those at one end accused of greed and land banking, and at the other end, those left with nothing. Alienated from their share because of the greed of others.

Reading through the documents and practice notes sent out from lawyers and Judges, it is clear this vaka of change is happening and it will, if allowed to pass into law, directly change the way we understand land, our occupation of it, our succession to it and the role played by the many offshore to land, as opposed to those who reside in the Cook Islands.

Let us be clear in our minds, that this change is necessary because land laws as they have been practiced, have not met the legal requirements of land law and the two have been left to two very different interpretations and practices.

That alongside acres and acres of land, left barren, left empty and/or having a toilet block or a single concrete pad have up until now, sufficed the needs of resident families to hold onto what they believed was theirs for perpetuity, and those that came for a land meeting, sat in court, had it sealed and then left again.

This practice simply cannot continue, or can be seen as just, for “occupation” of land to be as it was intended – occupied.

The proposed changes will radically change that possession and perception and our approach to land as something I am entitled to without also considering my responsibilities to occupy and develop that land, to live on it, to breathe on it and to ultimately to be buried on it.

Consultation is not being told what is changing or happening. It is instead an exchange of ideas, uri’uri, back and forth, until we arrive at a place of agreement or at least understanding. Watching the consultation at hui happening in Turangawaewae yesterday, it is clear what consultation, wrapped in culture can look, sound, hear and feel like.

So, let us consult, our people here in Aotearoa and Australia, we come with open hearts and ears.


Sally Wyatt on 21/01/2024

Wise words, Thomas.